Cale continued to look forward without turning around as he started to speak.
“I don’t recall ever telling you my birthday.”
Kim Rok Soo had not shared his birthday with anyone during this time.
He had recorded his birthday later, when he joined the company and had to give some personal information. Lee Soo Hyuk remembered that information and took care of Kim Rok Soo and Choi Jung Soo’s birthdays.
That was how it went until the two of them died.
“Han told me about it.”
Cale nonchalantly responded to Lee Soo Hyuk’s answer.
“Did you know that it is Choi Han and Choi Jung Soo’s birthdays as well?”
Cale slowly turned his body and looked at Lee Soo Hyuk since it was rare for him to sound flustered.
Lee Soo Hyuk, whose mood had been quite sharp since yesterday, seemed oddly anxious.
Cale started to smile in response.
“What is it? Did you prepare a birthday party for me or something?”
Lee Soo Hyuk had an awkward expression on his face.
“It’s not a party since we are in a pretty serious situation.”
He then scratched his cheek.
“Just some late-night snack time?”
“It seems like you included Choi Han and Choi Jung Soo to prepare for that late-night snack time?”
Lee Soo Hyuk looked flustered again.
“Shall we go?”
“For the thing you prepared. Let’s celebrate all of us.”
Lee Soo Hyuk jovially scoffed after hearing Kim Rok Soo say everything he wanted to say.
“Yes. Let’s go.”
He then looked elsewhere.
Heo Sook Ja and Jo Min Yeh were walking toward Cale and Lee Soo Hyuk.
“Have a safe trip.”
Heo Sook Ja smiled as she addressed Cale.
Jo Min Yeh waved her hand to say no after seeing Cale lower his head and apologize.
“Not at all. Everybody knows how hard you’ve worked today, Commander-nim. We heard you didn’t even get a chance to eat properly.”
Heo Sook Ja who was standing next to her started to frown.
She had not heard the details of the battle because she was here defending the Seomyeon shelter.
All she had heard was that the yellow head had escaped in the end.
She had also heard that it had run away with the blue head in its mouth.
That meant that the plan had failed.
However, she could not be angry about the situation.
She had seen how Commander Kim Rok Soo was covered in blood compared to everybody else who only had light injuries or no injuries at all.
Everybody had said the same thing.
They would have all been seriously injured or dead if he was not there.
Heo Sook Ja opened her mouth before stopping herself mid sentence.
‘Commander, you should rest a bit.’
That was what she wanted to say, but she could not say it.
‘He can’t rest.’
This young man could not rest.
She felt sorry about it, but it was the truth.
“Please enjoy your time.”
Lee Soo Hyuk who was quietly walking next to him started to speak.
“You’re really good at keeping your promises.”
Cale looked toward Lee Soo Hyuk with a confused expression.
However, Lee Soo Hyuk did not look at Rok Soo at all on their way to the room closest to the watchtower and the castle wall.
“What do you mean?”
Lee Soo Hyuk smiled and slowly answered after Cale finally asked.
“Yesterday and today. People probably saw your back the most.”
Cale recalled what he had said to them a few days ago.
‘The people here will fight while looking at my back the most, at least for this battle.’
Lee Soo Hyuk continued to speak.
“It was the case during yesterday’s battle. Even today, your back was clearly visible as you stood by the watchtower all day.”
“I need to keep my promise.”
Lee Soo Hyuk grabbed the doorknob and looked toward Cale, who answered nonchalantly.
“Yes. That’s the Kim Rok Soo I know.”
Cale could see the sights inside the door.
He slowly started to smile.
“Huh?! Mister! I thought you would give us a signal first. How can you just suddenly open the door like that?”
“Ah, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
Kim Min Ah and Bae Puh Rum shouted in shock.
There was quite a lot of food on the table inside this small office.
It was not a fancy feast, but it was the best they could do in their current situation.
Choi Han, Choi Jung Soo, Kim Min Ah, Bae Puh Rum, Park Jin Tae, the Lee siblings, and everybody else who had a connection with Cale were all gathered in this small office.
Cale started to smile.
The two words he said made the entire office go silent.
Then people started to openly or discreetly smile one by one.
Lee Soo Hyuk started to point at that moment.
“Hey, Han and Jung Soo.”
Choi Jung Soo flinched at the sudden attention.
“I heard it’s both of your birthdays tomorrow as well. Come over here.”
Choi Jung Soo’s eyes opened wide after hearing what Lee Soo Hyuk said.
“…How did you?”
“Rok Soo told me.”
Bae Puh Rum rubbed his arm as if he had the chills before starting to shout.
“Damn! Does foresight tell you things like that too?”
Lee Soo Hyuk responded to Bae Puh Rum before looking toward Cale.
Cale shrugged his shoulders and looked back with a gaze that seemed to be asking if there was a problem. Lee Soo Hyuk quietly looked at him for a while before asking a question.
His voice was extremely quiet, as if he was whispering.
“Is foresight really how you can know about things like this too?”
Cale turned toward Lee Soo Hyuk.
The two of them looked at each other for a bit before Cale broke the eye contact and walked toward the table.
The words Cale whispered as he left echoed in Lee Soo Hyuk’s ear.
“Who knows? Why don’t you figure it out if you’re so curious?”
Lee Soo Hyuk chuckled before starting to speak to everyone.
“Alright! Let’s sing for the three of them!”
Joo Ho-Shik nodded his head in agreement before clasping his hands together.
“Hey, why are you saying sir?”
Park Jin Tae started to frown before looking toward a corner of the ceiling and continuing to speak.
“Just say happy birthday.”
“That’s right. I can’t call him sir, now can I?”
Grandma Kim smiled before starting to clap. (This is different from the raw because in Korean, there is a respectful way to say ‘birthday’ which you use for your elders. English doesn’t have such equivalent, so I added sir to find the best suitable translation. Grandma Kim says she can’t use the respectful term for birthday since she is older than Cale.)
“Happy birthday to you-”
She started to sing and the rest of the people in the room joined in as well.
Cale reached his hand out while standing at the center of the songs.
“You guys come join me.”
One hand grabbed Choi Jung Soo, the other hand grabbed Choi Han, and he pulled the two of them closer to him.
“No. Ah, really, wut the heck is going on?” (Remember, accents are translated like this.)
Choi Jung Soo looked flustered and confused as he accepted the birthday song directed toward him.
On the other hand, Choi Han was completely stiff.
Cale just patted Choi Han’s shoulder.
Choi Han’s pupils slightly shook.
His eyes moved past Cale and Choi Jung Soo to take in this whole scene.
The song soon came to an end.
“Happy birthday to all three of you!”
“Happy birthday. I believe that November 8th is a great day.”
“Alright, alright! Let’s eat!”
Everybody made a comment once the song ended.
Choi Han heard Cale’s calm voice next to him at that moment.
“There’s still some time left, but…”
Choi Han turned back toward Cale.
Cale could see the ripples in Choi Han’s eyes.
They were not like strong waves crashing against the shore but gentle waves splashing and shining brightly.
“…Happy birthday to you too, hyung.”
Cale nodded his head and turned his gaze.
“Choi Jung Soo.”
Choi Jung Soo still seemed confused. Cale started to speak after a long pause.
Cale recalled Choi Jung Soo’s voice in his mind at that moment.
‘Rok Soo! Super duper happy birthday to you! Ahahahaha!’
‘Haaaaaaaa. Hey Rok Soo, can’t you be excited and wish me a happy birthday too? I guess not. Kim Rok Soo is not that kind of person.’
‘Who said I wasn’t going to wish you happy birthday?’
‘Keke. So you’re going to wish me happy birthday?’
‘Of course. How could I not?’
Cale slowly started to speak.
Choi Jung Soo’s eyes opened wide.
The words Cale said with a gentle smile on his face seemed quite meaningful to brush aside.
That was why he couldn’t just brush it aside.
Choi Jung Soo subconsciously started to stare at Cale.
Cale patted Choi Jung Soo’s shoulder once and then started to walk toward the others.
Lee Soo Hyuk had watched all of it. His gaze was following Cale, as if he was trying to analyze him.
Cale knew about it as well. He just pretended not to know.
Now that both Lee Soo Hyuk’s gaze and Cale were gone…
Choi Jung Soo, who was calming himself down, could see someone walking toward him.
“Why don’t we head outside for a moment?”
It was Choi Han.
Choi Jung Soo was about to ask why they needed to go out before he saw Choi Han’s hand.
The hands of the guy who seemed younger than him, but had many scars that proved he had lived a difficult life, were fidgeting as if he was a bit nervous.
Choi Jung Soo felt as if this was not like Choi Han before he was swept up with an eerie feeling.
His last name, birthday, and sword art…
They were all the same or similar.
“Yes. Let’s go.”
Choi Jung Soo followed Choi Han outside.
They then stood in a corner of the hallway facing each other.
Choi Han did not say anything for a while.
“…What did you want to see me for?”
Choi Jung Soo could not hold it in any longer and asked, and Choi Han responded by taking a thick pile of papers out of his pocket and handing it to him.
“What is this?”
Choi Jung Soo was confused but still accepted the pile of paper.
He peeked at it for a moment but it was difficult to tell what it was as the first page did not have anything written on it.
Choi Jung Soo had no choice but to look toward Choi Han for an answer.
“…It’s a present.”
He didn’t know why, but he started to frown after hearing that.
Choi Jung Soo subconsciously started to speak.
“Do you know me?”
Choi Jung Soo slightly regretted the thing he said.
The hands that looked nervous until now calmed down and Choi Han’s face no longer showed any emotions.
“I will not answer any of your questions.”
Choi Jung Soo became frustrated after hearing Choi Han’s response.
That was why he impulsively responded back.
“Then I guess you won’t mind me figuring it out on my own.”
Choi Jung Soo could see a small smile appear on Choi Han’s face at that moment.
“Yes, I would have no choice if you did that.”
Choi Jung Soo felt as if his heart was tightening for some reason.
He had already been thinking about his family because everybody had wished him a happy birthday. His heart was beating restlessly.
Choi Jung Soo’s expression and his demeanor calmed down in order to hide the restlessness inside him.
It was similar to what Choi Han was doing.
Neither Choi Han nor Choi Jung Soo knew how similar they were right now.
Choi Jung Soo put the present in his pocket and started to speak.
“I will definitely figure it out.”
He then looked toward Choi Han and added on.
“I don’t have a present for you. However, happy birthday.”
Choi Han’s eyes opened a little wider.
“I mean it.”
Choi Jung Soo answered honestly.
“You’ve helped me with my sword art and training.”
He didn’t know why Choi Han did all of that, however…
Actually, there were too many suspicious things for him to claim that he didn’t know the reason at all. He couldn’t help but have many ‘maybe?’ types of thoughts.
But Choi Jung Soo did not say those out loud.
It was okay to say it once everything became certain.
“I know that you are taking a lot of time to help me.”
That was why Choi Jung Soo slightly bowed toward this man who was younger than him but did not seem younger at all.
“Thank you very much.”
Just maybe, Choi Han was the first sword instructor Choi Jung Soo ever had, aside from his family.
Choi Jung Soo had just called him Mr. Choi Han since Choi Han didn’t call himself instructor nor master and didn’t want to be addressed that way, but…
Choi Han was still like a master for Choi Jung Soo.
Choi Jung Soo started to raise his slightly lowered head.
He heard Choi Han’s voice at that moment.
His voice was a bit cracked.
“It’s me who is thankful.”
Choi Jung Soo urgently raised his head after hearing Choi Han speaking informally in a different voice than normal.
But Choi Han’s expression was the same as usual.
It was as still as his blade.
“Please head in first.”
Choi Jung Soo suppressed this iffy feeling inside after hearing Choi Han’s comment and nodded to say goodbye before heading toward the door.
He flinched after seeing Cale standing by the door, but managed to get the words out.
Choi Jung Soo opened and closed his mouth a few times after hearing Cale’s calm response before he walked past Cale and back into the room.
Choi Jung Soo started to think.
‘I have a lot of time.’
After they took care of this unranked monster that was trying to attack this Seomyeon shelter… He could get rid of these frustrating and annoying things on his mind at that time.
‘If we get a bit closer…’
They could talk about it at that point.
Choi Jung Soo had those thoughts as he closed the door behind him.
Choi Han and Cale were the only ones left in the hallway.
“Yes, Rok Soo hyung?”
Cale, who quietly looked at Choi Han who was acting as if everything was fine, chuckled before starting to speak.
“I thought you had no plans on revealing the truth, but I guess that’s not the case?”
Choi Han’s shoulders slightly flinched.
He opened his mouth but could not say anything.
He wasn’t planning on telling Choi Jung Soo that he was his paternal cousin once removed.
But it was his birthday.
It was the birthday of Choi Jung Soo who was all by himself now.
For Choi Han, who didn’t know when he would leave this world, this might be the first and only time he could celebrate Jung Soo’s birthday with him.
But Choi Han had endlessly worried about whether he was making the right decision.
That concern was still going on.
Choi Jung Soo was continuously questioning Choi Han’s existence.
It was at that moment.
He heard Cale’s warm voice.
Choi Han focused to hear the quiet voice that only he could hear.
“You wanted celebrate it with him. Your family member’s birthday.”
Choi Han couldn’t respond to that.
But Choi Han’s lips started to move after hearing Cale praise him.
His lips formed a straight line, making it unable to tell whether he was trying to smile or stop himself from crying.
Cale patted Choi Han’s shoulder.
Choi Han could see Cale heading out of the hallway once those pats did not feel weird anymore.
“Where are you going?”
“…Let’s go together, hyung-nim.”
Choi Han could not tell him to get some more rest.
It was because Choi Han was the person who understood Cale’s desire to protect this place and quickly head back to the people waiting for him more than anybody else.
But even Choi Han didn’t know everything.
* * *
Cale quietly looked down at the watch in his hand.
That day would soon arrive.
The day that the God of Death told him to make a decision would arrive in 5 minutes.
He recalled the text from his memories.
< Grade 1 ability user Kim Rok Soo. >
< Do you wish to return to your original world? >
< Or will you die in this world? >
In five minutes…
The time to make that decision would be here.
Cale felt the calm night air as he quietly looked at the watch.
Choi Han walked toward him.
The people standing guard had headed down and only Cale and Choi Han were up here right now.
“Rok Soo hyung, why don’t you head down and have a warm cup of tea-!”
Choi Han stopped talking.
It was because Cale suddenly clutched the area by his heart and curled forward.
Choi Han saw it at that moment.
He saw that Cale seemed to be in so much pain, pain that was incomparable to anything he had felt until now.
Choi Han subconsciously called him Cale and started to support him.
But Cale was looking down at the watch.
It felt as if his heart was being ripped out.
No, an intense pain that felt as if his soul was being ripped out overwhelmed Cale.
It wasn’t November 8th yet.
What was going on?
Something was supposed to happen on that day.
The God of Death was going to do something. That was what Cale had thought.
But it was still November 7th.
Cale started to frown.
– How entertaining.
It was at that moment.
Cale started to frown even more after hearing a voice in his head.
– I can’t just let you overcome your despairs, now can I?
The sealed god was the one talking to him.
Hello, it’s Yoo Ryeo Han!
I just left an author’s note two days ago with chapter 600, but here I am again.
I am leaving this author’s note because we have some great news!
In 60 seconds!
Well, not really…
The < Trash of the Count’s Family > webtoon is launching!
The launch date is September 1.
On the first day of September…
I’m happy and thankful that we will be able to release an amazing piece of work thanks to the work of a wonderful webtoon artist, dramatist, and many others.
Now that I have given the good news, I will take my leave.
Thank you very much.
I hope that all of you continue to stay healthy.
Yoo Ryeo Han